Patriarch Gregorios III is the leader of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church, which is based in Damascus, Syria. He is a native of Daraya, which has been the scene of recent fighting between the forces of President Bashar Al-Assad and insurgents seeking to depose his regime. Christians have been occasionally targeted by various factions of the insurgency, some of whom hail from outside of the country and are affiliated with the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization. By tradition, it is believed that Daraya is the place where the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus met with the risen Jesus Christ and thereafter was known as Paul.
As Patriarch and son of the town of Daraya, where I was born, grew up and was educated in a very good Muslim-Christian atmosphere, my heart is bleeding for the many victims who have been killed there.
That is why I am calling for the realisation of conditions conducive to ending the bloody fighting in Daraya and every other region of Syria.
We declare once again that dialogue, meeting, respect for freedom of opinion and the human dignity of every person, are values on which a renewed Syria can be built and thanks to which the atmosphere of love and harmony, which we experienced and in which we were brought up, can return to Syria.
I have great hope that we Syrians, who are all labouring under the weight of this tragic, bloody situation that has now lasted for eighteen months and more, will and must find all together another way than that of violence, weapons, killings and destruction, because with violence there are no winners, but rather, everyone is a loser, destruction continues, people are killed and the scale of the disaster increases, affecting all citizens.
Hence my repeated appeal, with the verse from the venerable Qur’an, “Come to a common word between us and you” (Aal ‘Imran 3:64) and the verse from the Holy Gospel, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). May almighty God protect Syria and bring these disasters to an end!
I have every confidence that all my brothers and sisters, Daraya’s sons and daughters, so dear to my heart, will heed this appeal! It is the appeal of a brother, friend, and son of our dear town! May this appeal be heard by the officials on the spot and everywhere!
With my affection and prayer,